Cornerback Zack Bowman picks right time to step up
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter December 15, 2013 8:28PM
Updated: December 15, 2013 9:49PM
CLEVELAND — Cornerback Zack Bowman looked every bit like the player he’s playing in place of — injured Charles Tillman — Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
Whether it was making the right reads or being in the right place at the right time, Bowman’s performance — two interceptions, including one he returned 43 yards for a touchdown — was much-needed in the Bears’ 38-31 victory.
‘‘It was huge,’’ coach Marc Trestman said.
Bowman’s pick-six, the first of his career, gave the Bears a 17-10 lead just more than a minute into the third quarter. With his eyes on Browns quarterback Jason Campbell, Bowman stopped his coverage on receiver Greg Little, who had cut inside, and picked off a throw headed toward the sideline. Bowman then picked up a big block from linebacker Jon Bostic on his way into the end zone.
‘‘We were in a blitz, and basically I just kept my leverage outside,’’ said Bowman, whose first interception came on a bad, short throw from Campbell in the second quarter. ‘‘Obviously, he looked my way, and I just broke and made the play.
‘‘The last thing I remember is just running into the end zone. I just broke on the ball and was just like, ‘Zack, just catch it. Catch it!’ I caught it and just took off.’’
Fighting for a first down on a check-down reception didn’t work out well for tight end Martellus Bennett in the third quarter. Defensive end Billy Winn knocked the ball from Bennett’s grasp from behind, and safety T.J. Ward returned the fumble 51 yards for a touchdown that gave the Browns a 24-17 lead.
‘‘I was just trying to get the first down,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘I always try to get the first down, no matter what. He just hit the ball just right. I think that was my first time ever fumbling in my [career]. I never really fumbled [before]. They just got the ball just right.’’
The Bears adjusted the interior of their defensive line, starting Jeremiah Ratliff at nose tackle in place of Stephen Paea and moving defensive end Corey Wootton back to the three-technique tackle.
Wootton said he was told of
the change right before the
game, ‘‘which was cool —
whatever they need me to do.’’ Paea has been hindered by a sprained toe this season.
Ratliff said he felt more comfortable in his second start and third game with the Bears. He made a noticeable impact against the Browns, too, with three quarterback hits and a tackle for loss.
‘‘To me, it really doesn’t matter if it’s the nose or the three or anything like that,’’ Ratliff said. ‘‘I thank God that I’m playing. I thank God that I’m on a team. They say nose, three or safety . . . I may raise my eyebrows, but I’ll play it.’’